Cancer Therapeutics

Technology, Discovery, and Targeted Delivery

Program Leaders:  Eric Prossnitz, PhD, and Sarah Adams, MD

The Cancer Therapeutics (CT) Research Program drives the discovery, targeting, and translation of innovative breakthroughs from UNMCCC science. CT is led by Eric R. Prossnitz, PhD and Sarah F. Adams, MD with former leader, Larry A. Sklar, PhD serving as a distinguished senior scientist and advisor.

Over the last project period, rigorous program planning, evaluation and guidance from the UNMCCC External Advisory Committee led to the strategic recruitment of talented new faculty, formalized processes to link program science with catchment area needs, and the launch of a new Translational Sciences Initiative to support the development of innovative investigator-initiated clinical trials based on research at UNMCCC.

The Cancer Therapeutics Research Program

The CT translational pipeline currently includes:

  1. unique small molecule discovery,
  2. innovative drug delivery and cancer vaccine design,
  3. translation of new agents and drug combinations to clinical and community interventional trials at UNMCCC and nationally, and
  4. development of a clinical trials menu to meet the needs of patients in our catchment area, supported by a renewed Minority/Underserved NCI NCORP grant.

CT collaborates with

  • the Cellular and Molecular Oncology (CMO) research program to identify and prioritize molecular targets for therapeutic interventions;
  • the Cancer Control and Population Science (CCPS) Program to implement new strategies for cancer prevention; and
  • UNMCCC disease-focused Clinical Working Groups (CWG) and CPDM to develop innovative clinical trials based on center science.

Major paradigm-shifting and practice-changing accomplishments illustrate the successful translation of UNMCCC discoveries to early phase and national NCTN clinical trials, including first-in human studies of an agonist (G-1) for the G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER), and therapeutic trials of a novel combination regimen (PARP inhibitor/anti-CTLA4 antibody) for recurrent ovarian cancer.

Our Specific Aims are to:

  1. employ innovative high-throughput screening and informatics platforms to identify novel and repurposed anti-cancer agents;
  2. develop novel methods for the selective delivery of therapeutics and cancer vaccines to enhance treatment efficacy; and
  3. translate our discoveries to innovative trials that prioritize the needs of our catchment area.

The 32 program members (27 full and 5 associate) are from 6 UNM School of Medicine Departments, the UNM School of Engineering and College of Pharmacy, New Mexico State University, and our consortium partner Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute.

During the prior funding period, CT members published 354 peer-reviewed articles (33% intra-, 24% inter-programmatic, 13% high impact, 34% NCI collaborative) and developed and led 17 investigator-initiated trials. As of 9/1/20, total CT funding was $7.5M, of which $5.9M was peer reviewed, and $3.6M from the NCI.

CT has contributed significantly to UNMCCC intellectual property through >85 issued patents and the creation of 10 start-up companies. Notable national interdisciplinary programmatic grants and consortia led by CT members include the NCI NExT Program, the NIH Illuminating the Druggable Genome, and NCI NCTN NCORP program.